A look at “Siah Armajani: Bridge Over Tree,” a public art installation on view through Sep 29, 2019 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Siah Armajani has been a leading figure in conceptual and public art for six decades.
Born in Tehran in 1939, he immigrated to the United States in 1960.
Since then he has been based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Armajani is now the subject of two exhibitions here in New York City: Siah Armajani: Follow This Line at The Met Breuer, and Siah Armajani: Bridge Over Tree, presented by the Public Art Fund in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Follow This Line, a retrospective of the artist's work, includes sculptures, collages, drawings, and installations.
It explores his experience as both an exile and philosopher interested in examining the role of art in American society.
Bridge Over Tree is a re-creation of Armajani's public art installation of the same name, which was originally presented in 1970 by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
Bridge Over Tree was first done in 1970 in Minneapolis.
It was up very briefly and it's never been seen since.
It's one of the most important works in the history of public art in the modern period, but hardly anyone has seen it.
And I was immediately excited that Siah would be interested in recreating one of his early works.
I did immediately think, 'Oh, this could be a great project for Brooklyn Bridge Park.'
As we talked about it, the idea of this space right between the two bridges was absolutely thrilling to Siah.
It's a great example of how Armajani thought about creating works of art that did not stand alone as a kind of object in itself that was to be admired from afar.
He thought about the work of art as something that should be quite seamless as a part of the urban landscape.
And so I think he looked at our cities and our environment and thought about everyday objects, like bridges, and built a sculptural language based on those things that are already familiar to us.
He took that form and reinvented it and of course in doing so was able to articulate so many of his own thematic interests.
You know, what it means to make a connection between two different points, what it means to experience a work of art, and perhaps in doing so in a social situation, to encounter other people, to experience it with someone else.
So Armajani is in his own way taking an existing form, reinventing it, and I think, asking us as an audience, 'What can a bridge mean when it is split from its functional purpose?'
Obviously, one analogy can be drawn to the idea of respect for nature that this bridge doesn't run over the tree, you know, it bridges over the tree and kind of respects it as a form.
I think there's also a way that one could read it in almost a biographical way, thinking about the single tree as a kind of lone figure, an individual, and Siah, himself an exile from Iran, coming to a new country, fitting in, but of course not fitting in.
In the contemporary world where we are in this moment obsessed with creating borders, a bridge talks about making connections and the energy that comes about through joining together rather than dividing apart.
I think it's about that space between the viewer, the work of art, the experience and the broader cultural meanings that everything in the world has whether we acknowledge it or not.